When the Energizer Bunny turned three, our family became more intentional in showing her the practices of our Catholic faith. Christmas was easy because that season is joyful and festive and simply full of love and family. Lent and Holy Week, though, are an altogether different story. It is a story filled with pain and sorrow and death, things that we instinctively want to protect our children from hearing. But the focus on the darkness of Lent means that we forget the true meaning of the season – Easter. The immense love and power of God IS the story of Lent. Here are some books that you can read with your preschoolers through the next 40 days or so.
1. Children’s Bible Stories
What other book can show us the history of God’s love but the Bible? From the Creation to when Adam and Eve first sinned, through Christ’s birth and finally through the passion and resurrection of Christ, the Bible tells it all. Bibles that are especially written for young readers are perfect for read-alouds. Our personal favorites include Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories, The Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories, and The Toddler’s Bible Easter book. We are also looking forward to using The Catholic Children’s Bible from Saint Mary’s Press which is arriving any time soon. (giddy dance!)
2. The Road To Easter Day By Jan Godfrey and Marcin Piwowarski
This story shows how Ben, a little boy about the same age as our children, witnesses the long road to Easter – from Jesus’ miracles and teachings, his 40 days and nights in the desert, and the days approaching His death and resurrection. The pictures and rhythmic text of the story will help make preschoolers understand what Easter is all about.
3. Easter in the Garden by Pamela Kennedy
Micah and his family believed that their friend Jesus is the Son of God. One Friday, he saw an angry mob of men on his way home. Upon rushing to his mother, he discovers that those men had killed Jesus. It was a sad two days, until he himself witnesses a miracle – Jesus is alive and there is no need to be afraid. All is well again.
4. The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
The story of Easter retold through the eyes of a little donkey who accompanied Jesus through his journeys, his death, and finally witnessing the resurrection of this kind man he had carried. Brian Wildsmith’s illustrations are a sight to behold!
5. The Story of the Cross: The Stations of the Cross for Children by Mary Joslin
This book was our main book last year and we used it as we went through the Interactive Stations of the Cross in Bonifacio Global City. It explains each station in a few sentences for young children to understand, and ends each with a simple prayer.
Our friend Tina, the TrulyRichMom, has a post filled with ideas about doing the stations of the cross with kids over here.
6. The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
This is our favorite retelling of the tradition folktale about three trees who wanted to be big things when they grew up. The one who dreamed of holding wealth and treasure ended up as Jesus’ cradle. The second tree, who wanted to be a ship, ended up to be a humble boat carrying the King of Kings. The last tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the world – “so that when people will stop to look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God.” He got his dream he became a cross where Jesus died. Beautiful!
7. The Story of Mary by Barry Martinson
Mary played a valuable role in Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. This book shows her silent strength and resilience without discounting the overwhelming grief and sadness she felt as Jesus’ mother.
8. The Legend of the Easter Egg
Bring Jesus and the true meaning of Holy Week back into this commercialized Easter practice by reading about how Easter Eggs came about.
9. Chicken Sunday
Patricia Polacco’s books are filled with wisdom that both children and adults alike will appreciate. In this book, she tells the story of three kids who get their grandmother a beautiful Easter hat after having to prove to their neighbor that they are good and well-behaved children. It also gives us a glimpse of a Russian tradition – the Russian Easter Eggs.
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This classic by Eric Carle is very popular because of its very rich content. As I said in one of our Raising Readers talk, if there is one picture book that you should have in your library, this is it. This favorite can be used to talk about numbers, days of the week, fruits and healthy food, colors, and the life cycle of a butterfly. Similar to the concept of We Choose Virtues‘ caterpillar-to-butterfly analogy, we can also use this book to help very young children understand how we change from sinful caterpillars to beautiful butterflies through Jesus’ dying and rising again on Easter.
If you are looking for Lenten activities for kids of all ages, CatholicIcing.com is a very good resource. We are currently doing the Lenten Countdown calendar and the Energizer Bunny gets a kick out of seeing how closer we are to Easter each day. As early as now, she is already anticipating Palm Sunday (“papalm day” as she calls it). I am also hoping I can find the materials for an Easter sensory bin that Tina did last year for my Montessori learner.
May your Lent be made meaningful as you journey through it with your kids.